‘Alarming’ Exeter Uni outbreak sees scores of students self-isolate

An ‘alarming’ number of students at the University of Exeter are testing positive for coronavirus, the council has said.

Cllr Roger Croad, Devon County Council cabinet member for public health, made the comments during Thursday’s full council meeting.

He said that while there was not much evidence of any community transmission in Exeter that was being spread by students, the number of students testing positive in recent days was ‘alarming.’

The exact number has not been confirmed, but it is believed that there at least 60 student houses of multiple occupation off campus that are self-isolating, in addition to others in halls of residence.

The University has asked all of their students who live in the city not to meet indoors with anyone who is not part of their household, for 14 days (from 28 September), except under some acceptable circumstances, such as attending lectures on the Covid-19 secure campus.

A spokesman said that could not comment on what ‘alarming’ meant to Cllr Croad, but that they would aim to give an update each week on the broad number of cases at the University based on PHE and Devon County Council information.

Steve Brown, the Deputy Director of Public Health Devon, has thanked University students for responding to the new additional measures to curb the coronavirus infection and said it is essential that everyone in the city’s community continues to follow the rules to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Staff working at a Coronavirus testing centre
(Image: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

In Exeter, 13 new coronavirus cases were confirmed today, following 23 being confirmed yesterday, with more than 100 cases confirmed in the City in the previous eight days, although not all are linked to the University.

But the latest MSOA map, which covers the period of September 21-27, has actually seen the number of cases for the Pennsylvania and University area fall to 39, from 49 as of yesterday.

Although when the map is updated tomorrow, the figure may rise again once the three cases in Exeter for September 21 are replaced by the 23 cases so far from September 28.

Mr Brown said: “We are in frequent communication with the University and we know that students are taking the new additional measure very seriously and acting upon the guidance, and I want to thank them whole heartedly for that.

“I also want to thank the University for implementing a rapid testing system and Rapid Response Hub which is helping to identify and trace positive cases.

“While we are seeing a rise in the number of confirmed cases in Exeter area, of which a significant number is within the University student population, it is essential that everyone in the city’s community continues to follow the rules to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“We know, from the positive cases we’re seeing across the region, that the infection is spreading in social settings, mostly within and between households. That’s why the University’s additional instruction this week is so important, and it’s great that students are hearing and abiding by that message.

“The rules require us all to pay attention and to take individual and collective responsibility. We must act as one in our response to this virus and each of us must follow the guidance and rules to the letter. This is the only way that we can get back to living without these tighter restrictions.”

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, whose constituency covers part of Exeter, said; “I’m confident the steps taken to contain cases of the virus connected to the University will help stop the spread and protect our city.

“We’ve kept the virus at bay locally and worked hard to follow the rules. None of us want these restrictions. We must all keep up the great work in Devon to keep cases low so we never need the restrictions other parts of the country are now facing.”

Devon Live